Tonally the A85 delivers a neutral to natural sound with a low to mid-centric bias and a relaxed top-end. If anything it has a subtle n-shape delivery but with a greater focus on upper mids compared to a more neutral lower midrange. In particular, it seems to excel in female vocal presence over lower mids male vocal pitching.
I wouldn’t necessarily call it the antithesis of the top-heavy A83 but most certainly the sound is much smoother and warmer with a slightly thicker note quality. There is also a much greater emphasis on the dynamic driver presence and control in the sound of the A85. It is nicely weighted with a natural slightly full-sounding tone though it is not overly aggressive.
In terms of staging the A85 doesn’t deliver the same level of height as the A83 and actually pays closer respect to the A91’s more neutral to slightly relaxed top end extension. The articulation is there but it is not overly forward and the presentation tends to excel more in width and depth. As such it lacks a little air but doesn’t sound overly shelved down with just enough lower treble energy to complement its upper mids focus.
I actually quite like how Fidue have tuned the low-end of the A85. It is full sounding, goes pretty deep also with more than respectable sub-bass presence. It also has that nice dynamic driver natural weight and decay so it is not as super tight and pacey as a BA but it does deliver a richer if slightly languid tone for my money.
Fidue have pulled the response back a little from sounding overly warm or sluggish with a touch more sub-bass elevation and a relatively linear drop beyond the mid-bass into the lower mids. There is some elevation in the midbass responsible for a touch of warmth but it fairly reserved in quantity and certainly not a lifted as the sub-bass performance.
As a result, you get some excellent power and rumble from the A85 low-end but not necessarily a huge amount of body once you start hitting the lower pitch instrumental notes. They remain relatively clean and clear. They are prevented from sounding lean with that hint of warmth in the mid-bass but otherwise, their timbre is on the neutral side.
Lower mids are positioned a bit behind upper mids with a fairly flat and slightly dipped response up to around 1-2k before a jump in energy and elevation from around 2k onwards. The linear drop from the mid to upper bass helps with instrumental clarity so whilst it is not full-on it isn’t overly lean.
At best you can describe the lower mids as relatively neutral in positioning. Instrumental timbre is also neutral though lacking in a little body. You get a relatively clean sound and harmonic balance is actually quite pleasing but I would crave just for a little additional weight and presence. The A85 tends to draw a lot of its power from the sub-bass response and when it is called on the sound is excellent but quite often more mid-centric rock which is more mid-focused doesn’t carry the same authority.
With the upper mids and vocal presence elevated you do however get a good vocal performance. More so though with female vocals which sit a little higher in the register. Male vocals below 1K tend to fall back into the mix a little but are never really overpowered by lower pitched instrumental passages. Sibilance is at an absolute minimum with a very smooth and natural delivery which makes this a good pairing for edgy vocal deliveries.
Upper mids and lower treble have some decent energy to it but it is not overly pushed forward. I think that was a sensible tuning tweak as the dynamic driver could have easily produced a veiled and distant sound if the dual BA was too laid back.
Instead, you get a relatively engaging level of treble contrast, a more accurate percussion timbre with a decent bite and very good detail levels. It is missing a bit of air and it does tail off a bit beyond 7-8k so combined with the modest level of boosting in the lower treble the top-end it is more forgiving than revealing.
The A85 Virgo is rated at 20Ω and 107dB so its reasonably efficient but will have some scaling capability. The level of sensitivity is rather typical of hybrid IEMs with the dynamic driver usually responsible for pulling down the dB level by a good 5-10 points. Compare that with the iBasso IT03 and the New Primacy at 105dB (+ or – 2dB) and you begin to get the picture sensitivity wise.
What I did find interesting though was the impedance level in the IT03 and new Primacy to be both 8Ω compared to the 20Ω rating of the A85 suggesting both the IT03 and Primacy are using similar driver technology. DAPs such as the Shanling M2s and the HiBy Music R6, with their high OI, are likely to sound truer with the A85 than the other two IEMs given the A85’s higher ohm rating.
In fact, I was delighted with the performance of the A85 with the R6. This pairing delivered a very juicy sub-bass low end and a natural sounding tonality with some very decent top-end clarity. I never got a sense it was strangling the life out its bass performance or pushing the top-end too hard.
Noise control on the A85 is really good. On amps like the ALO Audio V5, the hiss was very minimal. DAPs with minute traces of hiss such as the X5iii and the higher powered amp cards of the X7ii series such as the AM3 were also dead silent. This is an IEM you can confidently use with just about any portable device with regards to good noise performance.
If you are looking at good synergy I suggest a neutral clean amping signal and a highly transparent and detailed source to maximize the potential of the A85. I would advise avoiding overly warmed up portable tube amps or warm sources such as the FiiO X3iii and the Lear FSM-02 V2 Class A output which seems to overly dull the top end and leave it all a bit too soft and veiled sounding.
The ALO Audio V5 performed better with smoother male vocals and a bit of warmth in the lower mids where some cleaner sources left it a bit too lean. However, it left the low-end a little too linear for my liking which is one of the key strengths of the A85.
The nicest portable amp pairing was the solid-state ALO Audio Rx. This is the recent v2 model, not the original 2009 edition. The RX delivers a cleaner sound than most but does a great job with staging and dynamics and that is exactly what the A85 either needs or benefits from. It also has a fairly neutral timbre which meshes well with the A85 Virgo.
Tonally accurate DAPs such as the DX200 AMP1 card sounded excellent, especially if you swap the cable out for something balanced for the additional power. The A85 should be able to take any MMCX cable with a reasonable size connector tube.
DAPs such as the FiiO X7ii and the AK240 also played very well with the A85. They have plenty of top end detail and sparkle which pushed the A85 top-end a bit more to my liking. The X7ii is not quite as detailed but has a beefier low-end than the AK240 which tended to bring out the details in the A85 better.
Oriveti New Primacy
The New Primacy is also a dual BA single DD hybrid IEM though marginally cheaper than the A85. It also had its 4-core cable upgraded to an altogether superior 8-core variant and some generally positive tonal tweaks from the original Primacy.
The Primacy is rated at just 8Ω and 105dB which is an exact duplicate of the IT03 specification. In reality, the IT03 needs a little bit more juice than the New Primacy to sound optimal. The IT03 is also a marginally better performer with noise performance on DAPs and portable amps.
Despite the lower impedance levels both the Primacy and the A85 have similar volume requirements across both DAP and portable amps. They both also have good noise performance with minimal background hiss.
Tonally both are very different signatures with the Primacy striking perhaps the slightly warmer timbre of the two with a more elevated mid-bass response than the A85. It is still fairly linear in its drop with a greater sub-bass emphasis and depth much like the A85 though I find the Primacy to be a bit more forward sounding in its low-end signature than the A85.
Mids are more open sounding for me on the A85 with slightly better instrumental separation and imaging. The Primacy has a slightly more closed in feel to its staging qualities with less width though greater depth.
Lower mids on both on the Primacy is a touch further forward whereas the A85 is more neutral and behind that more energetic and elevated vocal presence. As such instrumental timbre is leaner than the Primacy and lower mids do not have the same level of body. Conversely vocals, particularly higher pitched vocals sound better with more focus than the Primacy.
Treble on both are relaxed and neither has a huge amount of air but beside each other, I prefer the tonal balance of the percussion timbre on the A85 which has a more natural sound.
The IT03, like the Primacy and A85, is a triple driver hybrid IEM rated at 8Ω and 105dB. It uses a single dynamic driver and dual BA in a similar fashion to the A85. Efficiency wise both are very similar with maybe a 1-2 step digital volume difference in low gain on most DAPs and almost the same pot position on portable analog amps using line-out.
Noise on the IT03 is excellent however the A85 is slightly better for background hiss. A bit of that is to do with the treble performance of the IT03, the BA on the high end seems to be a bit more sensitive so you can hear it a little more but very marginal.
Tonally both are very contrasting in their performance. The IT03 has a cooler cleaner timbre with a neutral to slight recessed mids performance, accentuated low-end, particularly sub-bass heft and a very bright and articulate top-end. It is an exciting fun presentation with plenty of bass/treble contrast and plenty of depth and height to its soundstage.
The A85 low-end is equally hefty in its sub-bass response, perhaps more so than the IT03 and delivers a little bit more warmth further up than the more dipped lower mids of the IT03. Vocals are further forward, smoother sounding and less prone to sibilance than the IT03. The IT03 dipped mids creates a greater sense of space than the more pronounced N-shape of the A85 mids.
Treble is further forward on the IT03, extends better and has more sparkle and air. This gives a little lift in terms of percussive snap and bass contrast. At times through the iT03 can sound a bit sharp or sibilant but can be remedied with a good cable upgrade or going balanced. The A85 has less air and sparkle but has a more forgiving top-end performance in comparison.
The cheapest hybrid compared and the one that offers the most value. The F9 is a single DD and dual BA just like the A85 but comes in at a paltry $99 and offers a balanced cable additional to the single cable output.
Both are actually finished to a very high standard. I am really impressed with how well put together the F9 is for the price. I would give the edge to the A85 for materials used and finish but its a very fine margin. Both use OFC wire though the A85 unbalanced is silver coated or SPC. Simarily for the F9 balanced cable which makes me wonder if Fidue could have included one also.
The F9 is rated at 28Ω and 106dB and is slightly less efficient than the A85 but only marginally so. Hiss and noise control is just as good on the F9 as the A85 and both lively happily on similar volume levels in low gain across the majority of amps and DAPs tested. they will both scale a little better with good quality amp signals and I prefer both out of portable amps such as the Rx over smartphones and weaker DAPs.
The gap is not huge in terms of a performance between the A85 Virgo and the F9 even if tonally they sound quite different to each other. In fact, the A85 sounds quite different to almost every hybrid I compared it with.
The F9 follows more of a mild V-shaped response compared to the A85’s more dominant N-shaped mids and sub-bass depth. Both have a fairly weighted sub-bass presence but the A85 is a touch tighter and delivers slightly more detail and texture. I prefer the power the A85 gives me over the softer flabbier F9 delivery.
Mids on the A85 Virgo are more open sounding than the F9 with better width and tighter imaging. Both have a lower mids that leave things a little on the leaner side. Instrumental timbre on the F9 is cooler to the ear than the A85. Vocals on both are more elevated and I must say the F9 does a great job at its price point in terms of tonal accuracy however they are not as far forward as the A85 and a little one dimensional in comparison.
Treble is a big difference maker for the F9 with more sparkle and better extension than the A85 Virgo. It is a touch uneven though and can come across as a bit brighter and fussier than the A85 depending on the source and amp pairing. It also doesn’t have the same natural body as the A85 so whilst the A85 is “duller” and more relaxed sounding in it’s top-end it also slightly more natural sounding.
The Fidue A85 Virgo is an unusual hybrid IEM. The A83 struck me in the same manner but for differing reasons. It may well be that Benny Tan and the Fidue team enjoy breaking the mold for what is considered the norm for tonality and presentation.
If you are considering the A83 or A85 then you do have a very clear choice. They are bed buddies in many ways in the Fidue reference range and complement each other perfectly. The A85 with its bassier more mid-centric vocal pitch and the A83 with its more treble-orientated sparkling delivery.
My only concern is price volatility. The A83 has been out for a few years and the street price is now $199 plus taxes on Amazon when the original SRP was $350. At $350 and $399, the difference between the two is very acceptable. However, will the A85 Virgo drop in price also? The gap between the two would suggest the A85 is light years ahead when it is not the case. I suspect some normalization will occur in due time.
Other than that, this is a well-built IEM with a forgiving tonal profile, plenty of accessories and sits nicely beside the A83. There has been some good learning from both the A83 and A91 experience and its good to see it being put to practice in the A85.